A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 24, 1875, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *4/18/2018
Sow for yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy. [Ho 10:12]
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1. Farmers are now devoting their attention to putting the seed into the ground. They know very well that without sowing in the present they cannot expect to reap in the future. Seedtime has many lessons; what we shall learn this morning is very personal and practical. Our hearts are like a field, and if we leave them alone the only crop we shall get will be the natural weeds of the soil, together with those tares which the evil spirit is quite sure to scatter whether we sow good seed or not. We are to sow besides all waters, but we must not neglect to sow for ourselves. There is need that we sow good seed in our own gardens, or else it will little avail us to have planted and watered others. It is concerning this sowing of the home farm, this seeding of our own particular acre, that I shall now speak. May the Spirit of God bless the word.
2. Before I launch into the subject, it may be well to observe that it does not apply to unrenewed hearts. It is in vain to sow for yourselves until the soil has been prepared by our Father, who is the Farmer. Even Christ’s own seed of the word, pure from his own hand, produces no fruit when it falls on unprepared hearts. His ministers are bound to scatter the seed on all places, on the hard rocks, on the highways, and among thorns, but still no harvest ever comes until the soil is broken up, and made receptive to truth, by the Spirit of God. Our text stands in the midst of a number of agricultural similes, and it is preceded by that of ploughing. “I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.” Without ploughing what is the use of sowing? Some soils need ploughing and cross ploughing; they are so heavy by nature that in them the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and only by mighty tearings of the soil are they saved. Have you ever had a broken heart, dear hearer? Did the Spirit of God ever drive the black horses of the law across your heart, with the sharp ploughshare of condemnation, killing your false hopes, wounding your spirit, and revealing your secret sins? For if you have not known something about this I cannot tell you to sow for yourself in righteousness; you are not prepared for that step, you must be ploughed first. I pray the divine Spirit to operate upon your heart to break up your fallow ground, so that you do not sow among thorns.
3. Let us also add another statement, lest we should be misunderstood. Even when we speak to the people of God, and ask them to “Sow for themselves in righteousness,” we by no means forget that all true cultivation of the heart comes from the Spirit of God. We exhort men as the Scriptures do, as active, intelligent beings. We exhort them as much as if there were no Holy Spirit; but we also pray to the Holy Spirit to make our exhortations, and the efforts of his servants, effective for the intended purpose. Without his divine operations neither the precept of our text, nor any other, will be obeyed. In this, as well as in every matter connected with the gospel, grace reigns. If the first sentence of the text might seem to breathe legality, “Sow for yourselves in righteousness,” yet the second clause of it most effectively evangelises it, for it says, “Reap in mercy.” Unless we reap eternal wrath we must reap in mercy. If anything comes of what we do, if our prayerful anxiety and earnest faith concerning the condition of our heart shall be really productive in holiness, it will be the result of infinite mercy and the effect of the Spirit’s energy. Even the desire to be right before God arises from the operation of the Spirit of God, and all the righteousness which is found in us comes by divine power, and is not from ourselves, but, like all of salvation, it is the gift of God. So, while I exhort, and entreat, and persuade, I am not forgetful of the Divine One without whose gracious working we can do nothing at all.
4. We will now draw near to the text. First, my brethren, we must not neglect seedtime; and, secondly, we must not neglect harvest when it comes.
5. I. WE MUST NOT NEGLECT SEEDTIME. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest shall not cease.” Both are necessary, and therefore God has decreed that time for both shall be given to men. All life is in some respects a sowing. All that we think, say, do, or leave undone is a sowing for the harvest of the last great day, and if we sow for the flesh we shall from the flesh reap what always comes from the flesh, namely, corruption; but if we sow for the spirit we shall by the Spirit reap what is congruous to the Spirit, namely, everlasting life.
6. As a man sows so shall he also reap. It is not, however, upon that form of sowing and reaping that I am going to speak to you this morning. As I have already told you, we shall deal with the inner life, for I think the connection shows that this is what was meant, for the prophet is evidently dealing with the people themselves and their condition of heart before God. The outward sowing of righteous actions in the field of the world is doubtless very important, but none the less so is the secret sowing of the enclosed garden of the heart. Our subject will be just this, that after we have been ploughed by conversion we need to take great care that our spiritual cultivation begins and is carried on. The little place enclosed by grace out of the world’s wide wilderness now calls for our attention, and claims the holy skill and industry necessary for spiritual husbandry. It must be sown with the good seed of the word, even the precious truths of Scripture, so that from its soil there may be produced a harvest which shall be garnered with abounding joy, and bring glory to God. The first thing after conversion to Christ is confession of Christ, and the next is instruction in Christ. I fear that too many professed converts leap over these hedges, and endeavour to become teachers at once. Without joining themselves to the church of Christ, or becoming disciples in his school, they rush to the front, endeavouring to teach before they have been taught and if they are the least checked they resent it as an interference and cast suspicion upon the zeal of their advisers. They call themselves disciples, and repudiate all discipline. They say they are soldiers of the cross, but they can neither march in formation nor keep step, neither will they submit themselves to order. They appear to think that the moment they are born they are fathers, the instant they are enlisted they are officers. Now, conversion is the beginning of the spiritual life, and not its climax. It makes a man a disciple, and the main thing a disciple has to do is to learn; after he has learned, he will be able to teach others also, but not until then. I have often said to you that nothing can come out of you that is not in you; and therefore, if there is not something put into you to begin with, you may go out to war, but, as you have neither shot nor powder in your gun, the enemy will not be much injured by your valour. We must be filled before we can run over. It is necessary for the Christian man to be prepared for holy service, that in fact what he does for God should be a harvest growing out of himself, because of a previous seedtime, during which much precious seed was put into him.
7. Let us take notice concerning this sowing, and ask, first, what shall we sow? Here is our heart, a ploughed field, ready to receive the seed. What shall we sow? I answer, see to it, my brethren, that there is sown in you a real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let it be of the simplest and most childlike kind. Do not trouble yourselves with definitions which darken counsel by words without knowledge. Hold on to Christ as a babe clings to his mother with his arms around her neck. Trust him, depend upon him, rest in him, and in him alone. But be careful that your faith is real reliance on Jesus, for I encounter some who think that faith is to believe that you are saved; but if indeed you are not saved such faith will be a lie, and you will entangle yourselves in the net of false confidence. Others think that faith is to believe that Christ died for them, when at the same time they think that he died for everyone, and then of course he died for them. Surely there can be no particular virtue or power in believing what is a self-evident inference. Many believe that Christ died for them, and yet they are not saved. Savingly to believe is to trust Christ: see that you have this trust sown in you. You ought to know why you trust him, and what he did for you, and in what relationship he stands towards you and God; you should be able, not merely to sing about his blood, but to know the doctrine of atonement, to grasp the blessed fact of his substitution, and know the reconciliation by which it is accomplished. To know whom you have believed should be one of the chief objects of your life. I am afraid that some who profess to have been converted, do not even know the A B C of the gospel namely, what is the faith of God’s elect, and on what does it rest. Take heed to yourselves that you are not ignorant here, but let your heart be well sown with simple reliance upon the eternal Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
8. Sow for yourselves, and see that in your soul there is repentance of sin. Do not fall under the notion that the necessity for repentance is over. I have heard it said that repentance is “merely a change of mind.” I wish that those who speak like that had undergone that change. It is a sad sign of a faulty ministry when men can depreciate that precious grace. Know that no sinner will enter into heaven who has not repented of his sins. No promise can be found in the inspired page of eternal life for men who live and die without repentance. It is an old fashioned virtue, I know, but it is in fashion with the angels, who rejoice over sinners who possess it. Know, my dear young friends, that sin is an evil and a bitter thing, and the language to be used about it is such as David employed in the fifty-first Psalm. Pray to God to convict you of your guilt, and ask him to enable you to flee from every false way. Seek grace to detect sin, and as soon as ever you discern its presence to flee from it as you would from a deadly serpent. May there be accomplished in you an inward abhorrence of sin, and a loathing of yourself because of your tendency to transgress. “You who love the Lord hate evil.” “Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” May you also have a full conviction that in you, that is, in your flesh, there dwells no good thing; that your nature is empty and void, and waste, like the chaos of old, except as the blessed Spirit shall brood over you, and the everlasting God shall create you anew. There needs to be in your soul a deep sense of its ruin, or you will not prize redemption, and much of the godly sorrow of repentance, or you will not know the ecstasy of forgiveness. Oh for a plentiful sowing in tears, so that we may reap in joy.
9. Labour, also, to have sown in you a clear knowledge of the gospel. Do not be satisfied to see men as trees walking, but ask for the eye cleansed even of the smallest mote. Be thankful if you have only a little sight, but let your gratitude lead you to pray for the removal of every scale. If you are really to produce a harvest of wheat without tares, you must distinguish between things that differ, for a man’s belief affects his life more than some imagine. You ought to know the plan of redemption, the system upon which God grants salvation. It will be a great advantage for you to understand the two covenants; and to see plainly the distinction between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. He who is clear upon that matter has grasped the marrow of theology, and possesses the clue to the precious gospel of Jesus Christ. I would have you know the doctrines of grace and understand them, and be able to defend them with scriptural arguments whenever they are assailed. Young people, I urge you, be willing to learn. Learn before you teach. To not go blundering out to tell the story of mercy before you have considered it, and in some measure understood its grand points. God forbid that I should dampen your zeal, but I implore you to put a little knowledge with it, or else the best of causes will suffer at your hands. Become apt to teach by being first apt in learning. Grow in grace and in the knowledge of your Lord and Saviour. Fill your basket with bread from his hand, or you will never feed the multitude. I would have you well equipped for battle with the adversaries of the faith, or at any rate able to give a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
10. Do not even be satisfied with clear knowledge. Ask for living principles growing out of this knowledge. The religion of passion is flimsy; the religion of principle will endure wear and tear. Heat and excitement too often engender a mushroom life, which dies as readily as it is produced. We want you to know the truth in order to feel its power, until it dominates your entire nature, sways the sceptre of your soul, and becomes a resident monarch within you. Then you will be able to stand alone, and you will not need a crowd around you, and a flaming orator to hold you in your place; you will know whom you have believed, and be persuaded that he is able to keep what you have committed to him. Oh, if our young friends, and old friends too, were well sown in this fashion, so that the truths they profess to believe had living roothold in their souls by the Holy Spirit, what churches we would have, and what little injury would the Pope and the infidel be able to do to us! A man may hold a religion, he may hold fifty religions, and have a new one every week and be none the better; it is the religion which holds the man which will save him. Your Bibles printed on paper are a blessing, but to have the Scriptures written on the heart is far better. We need not so much the doctrine which has been driven into the brain by argument, but the truth worked into the soul by experience, through the teaching of the blessed Spirit. Oh that living principles were thus sown in all hearts.
11. The great point is that whatever is sown in us should be sown in righteousness; that is to say, that it is really sown, and that honest seed is taken into our hearts. If you sow in error, however sincerely you sow it, it will produce bad results upon your intellect. “Sow for yourselves in righteousness.” Do not take handfuls of seed out of your grandfather’s basket simply because he put it there: see whether it is God’s seed. Do not snatch haphazardly at what is in the creed, or the articles of your church; go to the winnowed grain of Scripture, sow that, and that only; and although we, or an angel from heaven, should teach you anything contrary to the infallible word of God, refuse such seed a place in your hearts. Pray God to forgive the preacher his mistakes, but do not follow him in them. Pray to “sow for yourselves in righteousness.” Receive truth and only truth, and beseech the Lord to give you an honest grip of that truth; for there is such a thing as “holding the truth in unrighteousness.” It is very easy to be untrue to truth. Truth held by a bad man is as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout. The fair lily of truth should be held in a clean hand. Nor is this all. Let us ask the Lord to rid us of the mere pretence and mimicry of faith. Away for ever with a sham faith. Never talk about fictitious experience; do not borrow bits from this man, and bits from that, and retail them as your own; this is unrighteous. Pretence in religion is a kind of blasphemy. May all our religion be such as will stand the test of the day of judgment. I charge you, make sure work in this matter. If, indeed, the Lord has ploughed your heart the field belongs to him; therefore obey his word, and remember how he forbids his people to sow with mingled seed. Let all that is sown in you be true, honest, gracious, loving, Godlike, and divine; so when the harvest comes you shall not lose what you have planted. May God help you to sow like this.
12. The second enquiry is, How shall we sow it? The answer is, “Sow in the Lord’s appointed manner.” The means of grace are ordained by God to help us in sowing, watering, weeding, and fostering the good seed.
13. Let us, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, sow the heart first by diligently studying the word of God. Every believer ought to be a student in Christ’s college. We who preach the gospel are to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. Now, a disciple is a learner. Are all the people who professed to have been converted during the recent special services learners? I should like to know for one where they are. I have anxiously asked several of my brethren, the pastors of the neighbouring churches, and they do not know. I should like to discover the churches which have received these new converts, for wherever I enquire I hear of one or two, but scarcely any more; and up to this moment my earnest enquiries have brought me nothing but bitter disappointment. If these thousands were made disciples, how is it that they do not come under discipline? They professed to be converted, how is it that they have not united themselves with our churches? Do they need no instruction, or are none of us fit to edify them? Conversion should be the beginning of discipleship, but where are the disciples? Some months have now passed, and with deepest sorrow I enquire with what churches are they associated? Where are they learning the way of God more perfectly? I should rejoice to know.
14. My young brethren recently brought to Jesus, search the Scriptures through and through. Do not be satisfied with simply knowing the way of salvation, ask to know all that God has revealed, for there is nothing unnecessary in that book; there is not a leaf that we could afford to tear out and throw into the fire and say, “It is a redundant.” It is all to be studied, and we must give ourselves to the study of it by reading it, by hearing it, and by bowing ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit, so that he may lead us into all truth.
15. How shall we sow? Why, by an inward reception of the truth into the soul. I cannot tell you how the branch takes in the sap, but I know it does take it in; and you must receive God’s truth into your hearts as living sap for your souls; it is the living and incorruptible seed which lives and abides for ever. I want you not only to know the truth in theory, but to receive it in its inward power into your very souls as babes receive milk, so that they may feed on it and grow. Only by such feeding can you come to the measure of the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus.
16. You can, also, thus “sow for yourselves in righteousness” by much prayer, much praise, and much of every form of communion with Jesus Christ. Oh men, if you are to do exploits you must be strong, and you cannot be strong except in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Oh men, if you are to be holy you must commune with the Holy One, and get a glow upon your countenance reflected from the face of your Lord; only in his light can you shine as lights in the world. To say you are converted is little; we desire your sanctification, your growing likeness to the Lord. I do not know whether I make my meaning fully apparent, but I mean this, that we must by all means that God has put into our power make our hearts to be a well stored seed plot, in which there shall grow for God all kinds of precious fruits, which afterwards we shall reap and use for his glory. You are trying to sow others, some of you, are you sown yourselves with that seed which yields seed to the sower and bread to the eater? Look after yourselves; for if you leave home cultivation unheeded you may have to complain with the spouse, “They made me a keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.” I am certain that if we want to spread religion we must begin by securing the improvement of those who are already Christians. Until the army of the Lord shall be stronger, and every man shall have more of the force of divine life, we cannot expect to see the nations conquered by the church of God. Be careful concerning this matter, and see that you use the means of God’s ordaining, so that by the power of the Spirit you may sow for yourselves.
17. Thirdly, when shall we sow for ourselves? What is the proper sowing time? I answer, especially at the time of conversion, and immediately after your new birth. Very much depends upon the soil being well sown when it is newly ploughed. Then the heart is tender, the soul is in the formative stage: like clay on the potter’s wheel, or like wax that has just been melted, it is then ready to receive the right impression and form. When Paul was converted he went into Arabia, for a time, and these months were, I have no doubt, the most profitable that Paul ever spent, for there he communed with God, and his mind was ingrained with the truth. Perhaps he would never have been so great an apostle during the rest of his life if it had not been for that little tarrying in Arabia. The disciples, after the resurrection of our Lord, were to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endowed with power from on high. Oh you Christian people, see to it that you give your first thoughts after your conversion to being edified and built up in your most holy faith. It will be the most practically useful to others in the long run if, like your Lord, you take time to do your Father’s business rather in the quiet of Nazareth’s contemplation than in bearing unripe fruit.
18. But, brethren, it is not immediately after conversion alone, I take it, that every Christian should sow for himself in righteousness. We must be always sowing, and if we do not we shall not always be reaping. Ask the best instructed Christian, and he will tell you that he knows more of his own folly than he ever did, and is more willing to be a learner now than when he first entered into the school of Christ. Lord, still teach us, teach us every day. Even to grey hairs, still instruct us, so that we may have the power to instruct others.
19. There should be a special sowing, it seems to me, whenever we desire a special harvest. Notice our blessed Lord: whenever he was about to do some special action, such as sending out the twelve, we always read that he retired to pray. Praying was his habit, but there were particular times when he had more of it than usual, so that more power might go out from him. Whenever you are about to be, as you hope, a great soul winner, wait on the Lord more frequently concerning it. If you are about to pass through an extreme trial, and need great strength, to yield a greater harvest of patience, have a greater sowing of grace by drawing nearer to God. Our grace should always be at the flood tide; but even then some flood tides are higher than others, and we may pray the Lord to give us a spring tide [a] flood when extraordinary grace is required. Again, I say, look well to yourselves, lest you lose what you have accomplished. Seeing there remains a rest for the people of God, let none of us even seem to come short of it. With all your gettings get understanding; with all your doings see to it that your inner man is not neglected, that you walk before the Lord in secret, and are not negligent in soul communion with him. See that you walk circumspectly, so that you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should always be sowing for we have to be, in practical holiness, always reaping.
20. In the next place, why do so many neglect to sow? It may be, first, because they are lifted up with the notion that they do not require sowing. How idle is their conceit! Here is a piece of land that has just been enclosed from the devil’s common, and it has for years only produced briars and thorns, it must need sowing. Is there good seed in it by nature hidden among the clods? Impossible. Do you believe that because it has been ploughed it may now be left alone and a harvest will come spontaneously? You know better. The novice is not to be stand up as a teacher, he should sit down as a scholar. He may tell what he knows, — so far he has been sown, and so far he may produce a harvest; but how can he tell what he does not know, and how shall he communicate to others what has never been communicated to himself? We do not pick up religious knowledge and maturity by instinct; we are bound to search out the meaning of the Word of God and yield ourselves to the illumination of the divine Spirit; we must prove our conversion to be true by being as teachable as little children. We are not to rush naked to the fight, but to seek for full armour, and we do not have that in ourselves; helmet and shield and sword are to be sought for in the armoury of God.
21. Some do not like the sowing because it is very quiet work. A young man spends an hour searching into the truth of a certain doctrine; well, that will never be put into the newspapers, or written in the reports of a society, and no one will extol him for it: hence he is apt to despise such exercises. He goes hour after hour to the Lord Jesus, and begs to be instructed in the deep things of God: no one will sound a trumpet about that. No, nor do they sound trumpets when they sow fields; the shouting is left until they bring in the sheaves. But the sowing must be done although no one shouts over it, and you must search the Word and get your souls well sown, none the less, but all the more, because it does not bring you applause.
22. Sometimes it is even suggested that to cultivate the heart by quiet study is a waste of time. The sower in sowing does not see any immediate result; rather as he scatters his handfuls he perceives a waste in his basket, and there is so much less grain in the granary. There are no results except his weariness as he toils over the furrows; yet he is a wise man. Yes, and you, dear friend, must not be snatching at results too soon. I am glad that you are wanting to win souls: may that passion be increased in you, but I shall still be more glad if you combine with that passion the prudent thought that you must ask his blessed Spirit to make you a vessel fit to be used. If you have been trying to produce a harvest for God without any preparatory sowing you have only to take counsel from common sense and learn your error. You must be conscious that in some points you do not succeed; you are staggered by infidel objections, you are often completely perplexed when talking with enquirers, because you do not know how to answer the questions asked of you. Sometimes you blunder over a text, and cannot make head nor tail of it. Well, come to school for a little while before you go as a teacher; come and be ploughed and sowed a little before thinking about the harvest home.
23. Sowing, besides, is often very sorrowful work. We read of some who sow in tears. To learn costs humiliation, and weariness, and trouble, and crying, because of the task. I have cried my way into many a truth. I believe there is many a portion in God’s Word whose meaning will never reach you unless you will work for your passage, as some poor men do when they want to go to America. You cannot open these sealed treasure houses without hard thought, long toil, much prayer, much conquering of prejudice, and yielding up of the soul to the Holy Spirit. This is a kind of labour which always pays well, and when it is over your other work for God will be much lightened. After the sowing is over the farmer rests, and the seed springs up both by night and by day, he does not know how; and so by thorough seeding of the soul with truth, studied and understood, there comes a crop in future with wonderful ease, and spontaneous growth. Lazy people generally take the most pains in the long run; it is a saving of time and effort to store the mind and heart thoroughly at the very first. The shoeing of the horse, and the buckling on of the harness with care, will save time in the journey. Supplying a ship with food before it sails is a part of the means by which a safe and speedy voyage is procured. Your peace and strength in later years will amply repay you for care and effort now. Sow in the present so that you may reap in the future.
24. Last of all, on this point, why should we sow? We should sow for ourselves and cultivate our hearts very carefully, because our lives must after all, concerning their results, depend upon this sowing. If a man sows scantily, if he learns little, if he receives little from the Spirit of Christ into him, his life must be feeble and barren. How can there be a rich harvest from a scanty sowing? Little cast into the soil ends in little coming out of it. If a man sows in a patchy way, attending only to a few selected truths and graces, as some do, there will be a patchy character as the result. Some brethren have been thoroughly well sown concerning one furrow, and there is a first rate crop in that place; but then they neglect other portions, they do not strive before God to obtain all grace, or to know all truth, and as a consequence their life is faulty in many points. Complete experience and watchfulness of every point are necessary for the formation of a complete character. Beware of a half obedience in the heart, or a semi-illumination of the mind, for these will create an inconsistent character — a garden here and a desert there.
25. Be cautious also not to sow with mingled seed, for this was forbidden of old, and if you do it, there will be a bit of wheat in one place and a bit of tares in another, and you will be trying to serve God and mammon. Too many professors are as pleased with the tares as with the wheat, and scarcely know one from the other: as the eastern plant called in our version a tare is very similar to the wheat, so there are counterfeits of the virtues, and these deceive many. If we sow only with the good seed of truth, we shall experience a holy, influential, acceptable character, but mingled seed will produce fickleness, inconsistency, and poverty of character, and we shall bring no glory to the great Farmer. I am certain I am right in enforcing this point upon all the children of God with great earnestness. Brethren, do you believe that people would be carried away with Ritualism, which has now grown to be undisguised Popery, had they been fully instructed in the doctrines of our Protestant faith? I do not believe it would have been possible. At the present moment the wolves leap into our churches, and they find an easy prey where the people are least instructed and least established in the gospel. The people who know nothing for themselves, nothing by heart knowledge, are readily deceived; but where there are a clear understanding and fervent love for the gospel, where there are spiritual growth and abundant communion with God, arising out of inward vital principle, men are not carried away by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of man and cunning craftiness, but they stand firm, rooted and grounded in Christ. This steadfastness is a part of the harvest of which I have now to speak in conclusion.
26. II. WE MUST NOT NEGLECT THE HARVEST.
If a man with constant watchfulness, holy fear, devout prayer, and
simple faith in Jesus seeks to cultivate his own heart, he may expect
fruit to come from it, both towards himself and his God. Towards
himself one fruit will be stability, as I have already said. The man
will be able to say, “Oh God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give
praise.” He is not to be decoyed by the vauntings of the finders of
new truth, nor by the contemptuous sneers of modern thinkers, who
deride the good old way, nor by those mighty discoverers who have
found out that there is no truth at all. Experienced believers know
and are persuaded and have firm moorings. Oh, be well sown, for
then you will be stable, and out of that stability will come solid
comfort. Half the fears of Christian people rise like mists from
the marshes of their ignorance. If we knew the promises better, knew
the gospel better, knew God better, and knew Christ better, we should
not have a tenth so many fears. Remember that as the soul is
penetrated with the spirit of the gospel it will be filled with peace
’Tis religion that can give
Sweetest pleasures while we live,
’Tis religion must supply
Solid comfort when we die.
Those sweet pleasures and solid comforts are the harvest which those reap who look well to the good sowing of their souls. Those whose hearts are sown by grace, possess joys utterly unknown to other professors. What rapture and delight are frequently bestowed on those who have drawn near to God, and had their souls full of him! “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound, they shall walk, oh Lord, in the light of your countenance.” When others famish they shall feast, and when others faint they shall renew their strength, because their souls have learned to rest themselves on God alone.
28. One blessed fruit of this sowing is boldness in the Lord’s service. The men who know their God shall be strong and do great exploits. He who fears God much does not fear men. He has been living near to God, and cares no more for the opinions of men than for the howling of the wind over the moor. With this courage comes patience under suffering; the man who is full of grace is able to bear the Lord’s will whatever it may be. This is a blessed fruit of the Spirit. You who think resignation to be a light thing may yet live to prize it. These are a few of the fruits which grow in a soul well seeded by grace.
29. Now notice the text says that, though we sow in righteousness we must reap in mercy. If any fruit, beloved, ever comes out of your earnest prayerfulness and watchfulness, it will be mercy that gives it to you, for do what you will anything that is godlike and holy must be planted, and nourished, and supported by divine power, and nothing short of it. If you have shown any holy courage or gracious patience, or sacred stability, or hallowed experience, or spiritual joy, or heavenly rapture, or true holiness, it is mercy that has enabled you to reap this precious fruit. God asks you to sow, it is your duty to do it, and to be jealous over your own spirit: but to reap for the glory of God is entirely the gift of his grace, from first to last, and we must cheerfully acknowledge that it is so.
30. The text most pointedly asks us to reap. “Reap in mercy.” There is fruit on you if you have sown properly in the power of the Spirit of God, therefore reap it: that is to say, when the season comes, be ready with the outward fruits of your inward grace. Let patience be ready in affliction, and perseverance in the day of labour. As you produce these things bless the Lord for them. Do not be exalted by them, for you are to reap in mercy; if you were to reap in any other way, you might be exalted; but be humble, for it is mercy that gives you the graces which flourish in your soul. Take care to bless God for every good and perfect gift, and whatever comes out of your inner life, reap it in order to use it for the good of others, so that God may be glorified. If there is in you any zeal, courage, patience, and anything else, as the result of the inner cultivation, then come forward and spend it for your Redeemer’s praise. Remember you have nothing which you have not received, and having received it you are bound in gratitude to expend it for him who gave it to you.
31. But in closing, let us see to it, I say, dear brothers and sisters, that all of us are keeping our hearts with all diligence before the Lord. It is the Spirit’s work, we have admitted this, over and over again; but the Spirit of God awakens us to activity, and does not lull us into a passive condition, for he would have us careful that these things are in us, and abound, so that we are not barren nor unfruitful. He would have us see that we do not come short in any good thing, but that we abound in all knowledge, and all love, and all patience for his glory, so that our life may show that we have indeed come under the fostering husbandry of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wish that we were as a church lifted up to a higher plain altogether, all of us, by one blessed lift from the divine Spirit; and then I wish that out of us there might be chosen more ministers of Christ, more mighty soul winners, more missionaries among the heathen, and more of every order of soldiers for Christ. When our Master wants workmen he does not take those who are sick. If you had to make a railway you would not go to Brompton Hospital and pick out all the consumptives there, and give them a pickaxe or a spade to try and throw up embankments or dig cuttings; no, but you would select the strong men, the men of brawny arms, the men of muscle, who know how to wield crowbar and spade. And so will God do in his church. We must be strong in grace, strong in secret, strong in private prayer, strong in fellowship with God, strong in vital principle within us, and after that the Lord will let us loose as a church upon his foes, like a tornado, sweeping everything before us. We cannot bring out of ourselves what is not in us, we must go to God to be filled or we cannot run over. Lamps may shine, but they must be trimmed with oil, or else they will smell foully and cease to shine: we must have food, or we cannot keep up our stamina; we must live upon Christ; we must be nurtured with his very heart’s blood, or else the life in us will only be a life of pain and panting, but not a life of triumph and victory. See to this, and may God bless you in it.
As for you who are not ploughed, I beseech you to remember that you
cannot produce any fruit for God. Be ashamed by your barrenness and
cry mightily to him so that he would deal graciously with you, and
bring you to Jesus, for now you are near to cursing, and before long,
unless grace prevents, your end will be to be burned. May God save
you for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Eph 4]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Joy and Peace — Gratitude And Hope” 719]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 119” 119 @@ "(Song 2)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 39” 39]
[a] Spring Tide: A tide occurring on the days shortly after the new and full moon, in which the high water level reaches its maximum. OED.
The Christian, Joy and Peace
719 — Gratitude And Hope
1 My soul, triumphant in the Lord,
Shall tell its joys abroad;
And march with holy vigour on,
Supported by its God.
2 Through all the winding maze of life,
His hand hath been my guide;
And in that long-expected care,
My heart shall still confide.
3 His grace through all the desert flows,
And unexhausted stream:
That grace on Zion’s sacred mount
Shall be my endless theme.
4 Beyond the choicest joys of earth
These distant courts I love;
But oh, I burn with strong desire
To view thy house above.
5 Mingled with all the shining band,
My soul would there adore;
A pillar in thy temple fix’d,
To be removed no more.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 119 (Song 1)
1 Oh how I love thy holy law!
‘Tis daily my delight;
And thence my meditations draw
Divine advice by night.
2 How doth thy word my heart engage!
How well employ my tongue!
And in my tiresome pilgrimage
Yields me a heavenly song.
3 Am I a stranger, or at home,
‘Tis my perpetual feast:
Not honey dropping from the comb,
So much allures the taste.
4 No treasures so enrich the mind,
Nor shall thy word be sold
For loads of silver well refined,
Nor heaps of choicest gold.
5 When nature sinks, and spirits droop,
Thy promises of grace
Are pillars to support my hope,
And there I write thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 2)
1 Oh that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep his statutes still!
Oh that my God would grant me grace
To know and do his will!
2 Oh send thy Spirit down, to write
Thy law upon my heart!
Nor let my tongue indulge deceit,
Nor act the liar’s part.
3 From vanity turn off my eyes;
Let no corrupt design,
Nor covetous desires arise
Within this soul of mine.
4 Order my footsteps by thy word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
5 My soul hath gone too far astray,
My feet too often slip;
Yet since I’ve not forgot thy way
Restore thy wandering sheep.
6 Make me to walk in thy commands,
‘Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head, or heart, or hands,
Offend against my God.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 119 (Song 3)
1 My soul lies cleaving to the dust;
Lord, give me life divine;
From vain desires and every lust,
Turn off these eyes of mine.
2 I need the influence of thy grace
To speed me in thy way,
Lest I should loiter in my race
Or turn my feet astray.
3 When sore afflictions press me down,
I need thy quickening powers;
Thy word that I have rested on
Shall help my heaviest hours.
4 Are not thy mercies sovereign still,
And thou a faithful God?
Wilt thou not grant me warmer zeal
To run the heavenly road?
5 Does not my heart thy precepts love,
And long to see thy face?
And yet how slow my spirits move
Without enlivening grace!
6 Then shall I love thy gospel more,
And ne’er forget thy word,
When I have felt its quickening power
To draw me near the Lord.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 4)
1 My soul lies grovelling low,
Still cleaving to the dust:
Thy quickening grace, oh Lord, bestow,
For in thy word I trust.
2 Make me to understand
Thy precepts and thy will;
Thy wondrous works on every hand,
I’ll sing and talk of still.
3 My soul, oppress’d with grief,
In heaviness melts down;
Oh strengthen me and send relief,
And thou shalt wear the crown.
4 Remove from me the voice
Of falsehood and deceit;
The way of truth is now my choice,
Thy word to me is sweet.
5 Thy testimony stands,
And never can depart;
I’ll run the way of thy commands
If thou enlarge my heart.
Joseph Irons, 1847
Psalm 119 (Song 5)
1 Consider all my sorrows, Lord,
And thy deliverance send;
My soul for thy salvation faints;
When will my troubles end?
2 Yet I have found ‘tis good for me
To bear my Father’s rod;
Afflictions make me learn thy law,
And live upon my God.
3 This is the comfort I enjoy
When new distress begins:
I read thy word, I run thy way,
And hate my former sins.
4 Had not thy word been my delight
When earthly joys were fled,
My soul oppress’d with sorrow’s weight,
Had sunk amongst the dead.
5 I know thy judgments, Lord, are right,
Though they may seem severe;
The sharpest sufferings I endure
Flow from thy faithful care.
6 Before I knew thy chastening rod
My feet were apt to stray;
But now I learn to keep thy word,
Nor wander from thy way.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 6)
1 Oh that thy statutes every hour
Might dwell upon my mind!
Thence I derive a quickening power,
And daily peace I find.
2 To meditate thy precepts, Lord,
Shall be my sweet employ;
My soul shall ne’er forget thy word;
Thy word is all my joy.
3 How would I run in thy commands,
If thou my heart discharge
From sin and Satan’s hateful chains,
And set my feet at large!
4 My lips with courage shall declare
Thy statutes and thy name;
I’ll speak thy words though kings should hear,
Nor yield to sinful shame.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 119 (Song 7)
1 Father, I bless thy gentle hand;
How kind was thy chastising rod;
That forced my conscience to a stand,
And brought my wandering soul to God!
2 Foolish and vain, I went astray
Ere I had felt thy scourges, Lord;
I left my guide, and lost my way;
But now I love and keep thy word.
3 ‘Tis good for me to wear the yoke,
For pride is apt to rise and swell;
‘Tis good to bear my Father’s stroke,
That I might learn his statutes well.
4 Thy hands have made my mortal frame,
Thy Spirit form’d my soul within;
Teach me to know thy wondrous name,
And guard me safe from death and sin.
5 Then all that love and fear the Lord,
At my salvation shall rejoice;
For I have hoped in thy word,
And made thy grace my only choice.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Spirit of the Psalms
1 Behold, Oh Lord, my days are made
A handbreadth at the most;
Ere yet ‘tis noon my flower must fade,
And I give up the ghost.
2 Then teach me, Lord, to know mine end,
And know that I am frail;
To heaven let all my thoughts ascend,
And let not earth prevail.
3 What is there here that I should wait,
My hope’s in thee alone;
When wilt thou open glory’s gate
And call me to thy throne?
4 A stranger in this land am I,
A sojourner with thee;
Oh be not silent at my cry,
But show thyself to me.
5 Though I’m exiled from glory’s land,
Yet not from glory’s King;
My God is ever near at hand,
And therefore I will sing.
Charles H. Spurgeon, 1866.